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Saturday, 30 November, 2002, 20:56 GMT
Musketeers carry Dumas to Pantheon
French President Jacques Chirac bows at the coffin of author Alexandre Dumas
Jacques Chirac delivered a eulogy
The remains of the world's most-read French author, Alexandre Dumas, have been placed in the Pantheon in Paris.

Covered in a blue velvet cloth inscribed with the words "All for one, one for all" - a phrase from one of Dumas' most famous works, The Three Musketeers - the author's coffin will now lie in state before it is interred in a side chapel.

Thousands of fans turned out to watch as the coffin was brought from the Senate to the Pantheon in a procession that included 100 costumed actors dressed as characters from Dumas works.

With you we dreamed - with you we still dream

Jacques Chirac
"Alexandre Dumas will finally take his place beside Victor Hugo and Emile Zola, his brothers in literature," said French President Jacques Chirac, who pushed to have the author reinterred in Paris.

"With you, it is childhood, hours of reading relished in secret, emotion, passion, adventure and panache that enter the Pantheon. With you we dreamed. With you we still dream," Mr Chirac said.

Too popular?

Dumas adventures such as The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask and The Count of Monte Cristo have inspired literally hundreds of film adaptations, helping to keep his work as popular as it was in his own day.

And this may explain in part why it has taken 132 years for him to be honoured with burial among France's greatest luminaries - some critics have refused to take him seriously because of his wide appeal.

An actor portrays a character from Dumas' novels
Actors accompanied the procession to the Pantheon
Racism may be another reason. Dumas was the grandson of a black Haitian slave, as Mr Chirac pointed out in his eulogy.

He said France was "repaying an injustice which marked Dumas from childhood, just as it marked the skin of his slave ancestors".

Born in 1802, Dumas lived a life that could have served as the plot of one of his nearly 250 novels and plays.

His father, a general under Napoleon, died when Dumas was just four years old, leaving his son impoverished.

The budding author moved to Paris aged 21 and gained a place in high society through his writing.

He served as a captain in the national guard, supported the Italian independence movement of the 1850s, fathered a number of illegitimate children, and died in poverty in 1870 after making and losing several fortunes.

Journey to Paris

Since Thursday, Dumas' coffin has been on a slow, 80 kilometre (50 mile) journey from his home town of Villers-Cotterets to Paris.

Dumas coffin at Monte Cristo, draped with motto All for One, One for All
Dumas' coffin with the Three Musketeers' motto: All for One, One for All
It spent Friday night at the chateau of Monte Cristo, the fantasy castle he built and named after one of his novels.

His home town initially resisted having him reinterred, arguing that Dumas had said in his memoirs that he wanted to be buried there.

This is the second time Dumas' body has been moved. He died in Normandy and was buried there because the Franco-Prussian war made it impossible to bury him in Villers-Cotterets. He was moved there two years later.

Valerie Jones reports from Paris
"President Chirac spoke of the legacy Dumas had left"
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30 Nov 02 | Europe
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